Seitan and tempeh are both loved by vegan athletes, since they are two of the best sources of plant-based protein.
They are also both foods that I never heard of before going vegan.
Turns out, I was missing out.
I’m going to break down the main differences between seitan and tempeh in terms of taste and nutrition, so that you can see if either might fit into your diet.
Alternatively, you might also be interested in my 3 way comparison of tempeh vs seitan vs tofu.
Tempeh vs Seitan: Which One Tastes Best?
It’s hard to say one tastes better than the other, because they have very distinct tastes.
In general though, tempeh is more of an acquired taste and depends a lot on choosing the right flavoring, while I think most people would like seitan right away.
|Tempeh||Fermented soybeans||Hard, crumbly texture.||A bit nutty and sour. Some people like adding sauce to it, some don’t.|
|Seitan||Vital wheat gluten||Smooth, but chewy and stretchy texture. Fairly similar to meat like chicken.||Depends on the recipe you use, is very versatile.|
Both tempeh and seitan can be a little tricky to find in grocery stores, which is why I wrote guides to both if you need help:
It’s not realistic to make tempeh yourself, but it’s easy to make seitan yourself.
Tempeh vs Seitan: Comparing Their Nutritional Profiles
Let’s start by looking at the macros of each food.
Seitan is a problem, since the nutrition of seitan will depend on what recipe you use. They are all based on vital wheat gluten, but have several other ingredients added in.
For the sake of this page, I’ll use my go-to seitan recipe, which is easy to make and reasonably healthy. I’ve added the ingredients to MyFitnessPal in order to get nutritional information for it.
Below is a table per 100 calories of each food:
|% calories from protein||38.5%||49.7%|
The biggest difference is that while both have a good level of protein, but seitan has more protein by a significant margin.
Vitamins and Minerals in Seitan and Tempeh
Beyond the macros, we have micronutrients that include vitamins and minerals.
Unfortunately, MyFitnessPal only gives data for the most important nutrients, so we can’t do a full fair comparison.
Take a look at the table below, which again is per 100 calories of each.
|Nutrient||% of RDA||% of RDA|
Based on vital wheat gluten’s amino acid profile, it’s clear that tempeh is typically going to provide more nutrients in most cases.
However, neither have much vitamin A, or has a ton of nutrients in general (although keep in mind that seitan usually has nutritional yeast in it, which is fortified with many nutrients).
Amino Acid Profiles of Seitan and Tempeh
Finally, let’s take a look at how complete the essential amino acid profiles of seitan and tempeh are.
I had to do a bit of digging to find seitan’s/wheat gluten’s amino acid profile, but you can find it below in the table.
Again, note that the data is all per 100 calories.
|RDA||RDA||Tempeh||Wheat Gluten (Seitan)|
|mg per kg||for 70 kg person||%RDA per 100 cal||%RDA per 100 cal|
In most cases, you’ll eat at least a few hundred calories.
For seitan, you should hit most of your RDAs pretty easily, it’s only the lysine that’s quite low.
For tempeh, you’ll come close to 100% of your RDA for every essential acid in 300 calories, except for methionine, which beans all lack.
If you’re eating other protein sources, chances are they will complement each other and you don’t need to worry about this. However, if you are concerned, take a look at my posts on the best vegan sources of methionine, and the best vegan sources of lysine.
Is There a Winner Between Seitan and Tempeh?
If you’re just looking to get as much protein as possible, seitan is the winner.
But when it comes to nutrition, tempeh offers quite a bit more.
So it will come down to why you’re comparing these 2, and what’s most important to you. You may also need to weigh the convenience of being able to buy tempeh more easily than making your own seitan.
At this point, you might be interested in a few other protein comparison posts I’ve made: